YouTube is under fire for several controversies that left the company gasping for air. Most recently, an alarming trend keeps surfacing on the platform: The autoplay function leads kids away from the harmless, joyful content parents have started the watching session with and immerses them in objectionable, violent, and inappropriate videos instead. Now, YouTube is looking into far-reaching changes for kids' content, moving it away from the main platform to live solely on YouTube Kids.
The company is working on these changes to defend itself against a probe by the Federal Trade Commission exploring a complaint that alleges the platform of amassing data on children under the age of 13 without the explicit consent of their parents, the WSJ reports, citing people familiar with the matter. Moving kids' content to YouTube Kids would close this issue, as the app doesn't collect data on minors not signed in with their own Google account.
YouTube is also considering another option that's similarly disruptive: Some employees suggest turning off autoplay altogether for children's videos, preventing the algorithm from working against parents' interest completely. This would most certainly lead to a massive drop in revenue for the company, as continuous, uninterrupted playback for hours allows the insertion of many ads.
On this note, the YouTube Kids app reports steadily growing user numbers, as the application has just hit 100 million downloads on the Play Store. The platform, introduced in 2015, only recently entered a couple of European markets, which probably have helped make it grow even faster. If parents are indeed forced to use YouTube Kids to access child-safe content, I wouldn't be surprised if the app soon breaks down the next milestone of one billion installs.
Either way, the autoplay controversy is not the only problem plaguing YouTube right now. For one, the Christchurch mass shooting was spread across the platform, with moderators barely keeping up. For another, researchers found out that the network could be used by pedophiles, with the algorithm recommending them video after video of children. Let's hope that YouTube will be able to manage these issues and become a safe place for every user again.
- The Wall Street Journal